Australian lawyers on Friday filed a Aus$1.1 million harassment suit against computing giant IBM on behalf of a former employee who alleges she was so seriously bullied she twice attempted suicide.
The woman, a former senior sales consultant with the US-based company in Melbourne, is suing the firm for damages claiming it failed to act on her repeated complaints of sexual harassment, discrimination and abuse.
"Our client was a high-performing executive earning in excess of Aus$150,000 ($158,000) per year, and often took home bonuses of several thousand dollars per month," said Siobhan Keating, representing the woman in her Australian Human Rights Commission case.
"She did her job very well until the appointment of a new senior manager, who systematically harassed and bullied her."
Over a two-year period, Keating said the manager repeatedly rubbed himself against the woman, put his hand on her leg and up her dress during an evening function and told her to "get your breasts out" to increase sales.
The man, who no longer works at IBM, would allegedly also call the woman late at night and when she was on leave, make unreasonable work demands and threaten her that he was "watching your every step."
"Despite complaining to four managers, and our client's obvious and visible distress which was affecting her performance, no action was taken for almost 18 months. IBM's inaction is impossible to understand," Keating said.
Now in her 40s, the woman was allegedly so stressed she twice tried to kill herself, struggled to leave the house and was now medically unfit for work, suffering insomnia, anxiety, low self-esteem and poor health.
"I just feel worthless. I feel I have no future now. I can't get a job. I feel I'm not worth anything anymore," the woman said in a statement.
"I was put down for so long; told I was incapable. I put IBM on a pedestal, I was proud of my job but now (I have) nothing."
The woman said her manager would scream at her "every day" and "no one did anything about it -- nobody."
Keating said if the case could not be resolved by the commission she would take it to the Federal Court.
"This kind of corporate inaction and trying to sweep the issues under the carpet is unacceptable," she said.
IBM could not immediately be reached for comment.